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United States challenges China’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures

The United States challenged sanitary and phytosanitary measures adopted by China in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic before the World Trade Organization (WTO).

These measures, according to the United States, affect trade in food and agricultural products.

The WTO received the U.S. submission on June 24, 2022, and the matter was then discussed at a meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures on June 22-24, 2022.

In this regard, the United States again raised the concerns it has shared with that Committee over the past two years regarding China’s continued measures, including testing requirements for imported food, the rejection of imported products at ports of entry when positive nucleic acid test results are reported, and the suspension of imports from specified facilities.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures

The United States and other Members reminded China of the latest FAO guidance on preventing the transmission of Covid-19 in food businesses, which notes that “current data indicate that neither food products nor their packaging are a pathway for the spread of viruses that cause respiratory illness, including SARS-CoV-2. In other words, SARS-CoV-2 is not a direct food safety concern.”

Increasingly, the U.S. argued, these measures appear to discriminate against imports while providing significantly more flexible avenues for production, transport and sale of domestic food products.

As the world continues to reopen and rebuild, the United States added, unwarranted trade restrictions adopted by China during the Covid-19 pandemic continue to drive up food prices for consumers, threaten global food supply chains, slow global recovery efforts and unfairly harm cold-chain food products, as well as further jeopardize global food security.

Reply

China replied that international guidance highlighted the importance of regulating the food industry to protect workers in a manner commensurate with the expected level of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, and that international guidance needed to be interpreted in conjunction with national public health guidelines.

Referring to data available in May 2022, China noted that 302 Covid-19 positive samples had been detected in shipments from India.

Some exporting Members had taken protective measures such as strengthening their surveillance systems and environmental disinfection.

China added that imports from a particular company would resume once the company in question had taken effective measures to eliminate the risk involved.

It stressed the effectiveness of its prevention and control measures, which had been adopted in accordance with international standards, guidelines and recommendations.

 

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